After three months in a coma following complications from kidney disease, Daniel Olery’s doctors told his family to prepare for the worst. As the family maintained their bedside vigil, his niece, Nina, visited a Pentecostal church in East London where Pastor Alex Omokudu was reputed to be a miracle worker. There she was given a green cloth, which she placed on Olery’s head. Almost immediately, he began to make a remarkable recovery.
Last month, Olery was fit enough to visit the Victorious Pentecostal Assembly (VPA) and give testimony, showing photo of himself in intensive care with tubes attached to his body following kidney failure. “I have seen a miracle happen,” he said.
Omokudu, known as Pastor Alex by his congregation, bellowed, “This is God’s work – Shout Jesus,” which the 5,000 worshippers duly did in voices loud enough to drown thunder. Olery’s miraculous healing is not an isolated case in the church’s 14-year history. On the day he testified, at least 30 other people told incredible stories of God’s intervention in their lives.
A student on a scholarship from Nigeria was critically ill and was already preparing to return home to die when someone introduced him to VPA. After a ‘deliverance programme’, he was healed.
A woman said, her daughter had been cured of kidney disease after they met Omokudu, while two women with fertility problems both became pregnant after visiting the church. Indeed, Omokudu has helped many couples struggling with childlessness have babies, often asking such people to bring pushchairs along to a special service. Among them were two women who had been infertile for many years. Both went on to have twins. The pastor told another woman about to undergo IVF to put it off as she would soon become pregnant. She ignored him but six days before it was due to go ahead, she started feeling nauseous. It turned out she was pregnant.
Another kind of miracle happened to Rosemond Osei, a 63-year-old Ghanaian businesswoman who went to seek spiritual help for her business. Instead, Omokudu told her to prepare for her wedding. She laughed it off, given her age, but is now happily married. People in search of work have miraculously received job offers while those with immigration problems have seen them improbably settled.
Pastor Alex is something of a phenomenon in the UK, where such feats are routinely taken with a pinch of salt. His miracles, also broadcast on his Believe TV network, always take people by surprise including Omokudu himself. “When the miracles happen, you are surprised, I am surprised, so it must be God,” he says. His followers believe anything he touches can bring about a miracle. As green is the VPA’s main colour, they wear green T-shirts or carry green face towels anointed by him. They believe that he is the miracle worker but he never fails to remind them that “it is God”.
Pastor Alex says his success is due to his compassion. Speaking at the church’s International Gathering of Eagles recently, he said “faith, love and hope are the three things ruling destiny. The greatest of them is love. Love gives victory. It does not know defeat”.
He is said to go to any length to attend to the needs of those who seek his help. On Mondays, he counsels an average of 500 people individually, giving them spiritual direction on how to overcome the challenges of life. As the day wears on, his aides start to worry that he is tiring himself out. But Omokudu presses on because he says he is doing the work of God and in any case “he has no other work”.
His demonstration of love is not just spiritual. He feeds those who come from distant places on Mondays ahead of the Tuesday’s early morning service. He intervenes financially when his members are distressed and sponsors a number of them in their studies. Omokudu also believes that a pastor must have integrity. He says integrity is “saying what you mean and doing what you say. You can never be respected or honoured except you have integrity and there is no better way to get people to trust you than through the integrity of your words”.
Next is humility. According to him, the undoing of many people of God is lack of humility. To him, the more humble you are, the more the release of anointing. Once again, the challenge for him is that people mistake him for God. “Men will make you look like God – refuse to be a God,” he once cautioned his ministers.
The pastor is also well known for his theatrics. Whenever someone gives a testimony of any miracle, he rolls on the floor in gratitude to God and calling on the congregation to “praise Jesus”. When he is declaring a healing, he jumps about the stage and the faithful follow suit. On Tuesdays when he hosts the weekly one-hour prayer meeting themed ‘Enough is Enough’, the enemy – in this case, the devil – is attacked with punches in the air.
His sermons are always down to earth stories of the capacity of God’s love, grace and power. To him, there is nothing God cannot do. If anyone in the congregation is in doubt, Pastor Alex will tell his own incredible rags to riches story.
He also preaches discipline. He frowns at pastors who indulge in the vices the Bible abhors. How can you be a pastor and you are dating members of your congregation? To him, holiness is prerequisite for receiving God’s blessings. As he likes to paraphrase the Bible, ‘on Mount Zion, there shall be salvation and H_O_L_I_N_E_S_S.’ As a corollary, he believes in transparency.
More than these, it is Omokudu’s attitude to money that stands out. He does not make money the focus of his ministry although he is a very wealthy man, counting choice properties, a television station and a Bentley car among his earthly possessions. He demands simple offerings saying, “God does not want your money, he wants your heart” and pointing out that those who request money for miracles are thieves. It needs be said that Omokudu is a rather blunt man. He does not spare sin or preach prosperity for sinners.
He has developed a unique formula for his Pentecostal work. First, those seeking spiritual blessings meet him during Monday counselling sessions. After the individual counselling, they are asked ‘to do their deliverance’ in which the person fasts and prays for the forgiveness of sins, breaking of curses and the defeat of the spiritual forces afflicting his or her life. The deliverance can last from four to 12 weeks depending on the severity of the affliction.
Those on deliverance go without meals on weekdays from midnight to six o clock in the evening when they break the fast. After the breaking of the fast, they can eat any food but it must not contain oil or pepper. Before the meal, they must drink a mixture of blackcurrant juice, olive oil and water. After weeks of being on the programme, Omokudu anoints those he believes have been spiritually cleansed. His critics say he is promoting the mixture as a healing agent. He disagrees and sees the deliverance programme as a package of restoring one’s relationship with God.
As Omokudu’s fame spreads, he has attracted a number of influential supporters. Benny Hinn, the renowned American pastor, has made VPA his partner church. He preaches there up to four times in a year and last year went on a special pilgrimage with Omokudu to Israel. Ayo Oritsejafor, a former leader of Nigeria’s 80 million Christians has also ministered there.
Omokudu has not missed an opportunity to advance his ministry. He runs a satellite TV station, Believe TV which is broadcast all over the world. He holds a live counselling session on the channel every Wednesday. He has also written many books, among them, 7 Laws for Activating Your Miracles, and Prayer Bomb. He writes a monthly devotional titled Don’t Give Up.
What is remarkable about Omokudu is that he was born a deaf mute. Unable to go to school and all but abandoned by his father, he survived by foraging on the streets of Lagos. Then one day, he was miraculously healed of his disability at a church service and later ordained a pastor. He got married and relocated to the UK where he set up the VPA. It is now among the fastest growing churches in the UK. He tells his life story almost every day to inspire faith in God. To him, if the story of the transformation of Alex Omokudu is real, then, anyone’s story can be changed by God.
Ekoriko is a London-based journalist and publisher of News Africa Magazine